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SYFY WIRE Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

'Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness' confirms The Illuminati - so who are they?

The secretive Marvel group will make its first appearance in the MCU.

By Matthew Jackson
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness YT

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is well known for its secrecy. No matter how many fan theories, set leaks, or accidental spoilers from actors themselves manage to make their way out into the world, the minds behind the superhero movie juggernaut always like to keep certain things under wraps until the last possible moment.

Which means that when they let a big reveal slip in the middle of a teaser, we sit up and pay attention. 

That's exactly what happened this week in a new 30-second spot for Marvel's first proper horror movie Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, the next MCU film which hits theaters in less than two weeks. Footage we've seen from the film over the last several months has teased Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) facing some kind of cosmic governing body, but while it's revealed that one of these characters seems to be voiced by Sir Patrick Stewart, we haven't seen any of their faces. Now, at last, we have a name, and it's a big one. 

In the teaser below, you'll hear Baron Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) intone "The Illuminati will see you now" as Strange enters a massive chamber where a group of people sitting on a high dais wait to see him.

If you're a Marvel Comics reader, that's a name you've been waiting to hear in the MCU for quite some time. If you're not, you might be a little confused as to why certain people online are freaking out a bit right now. So, let's break it down. 

First introduced in the wake of the Civil War event in Marvel Comics in 2005, The Illuminati is a group of the brightest minds and greatest leaders in the Marvel Universe. Their full history ultimately revealed that they'd been meeting in secret for years, beginning after the Kree-Skrull War, with the goal of pooling their shared wisdom in order to prevent major superhuman calamities from happening. They appear only sporadically in the Marvel Universe, but when they get together, it usually means something major is either on the horizon, or already underway, including the multiversal destruction of various Earths that led up to the Secret Wars event in 2015. 

In the comics, membership has varied over time, but the founding members and core of the Illuminati were Doctor Strange, Mister Fantastic, Iron Man, Black Bolt of the Inhumans, Namor, and Professor Charles Xavier, which makes it especially interesting that Patrick Stewart is in the film in some mysterious role. So, does that mean Professor X is in the movie, representing some kind of multiversal governing body?

Well...not necessarily. The MCU doesn't always lift things directly from Marvel Comics and place them in the same context, so it's possible that "The Illuminati" in this case is referring to an entirely different group of beings, perhaps some of the major cosmic forces that Stephen Strange frequently deals with in his comic book adventures. Stewart and his authoritative voice could be playing one of those figures, giving the Illuminati a very different meaning in the MCU going forward. Or, this really could be the establishment of some kind of group of elite heroic figures from around the Marvel multiverse. Perhaps the MCU is establishing that after the events of Logan, Charles Xavier's consciousness was rehabilitated and sent to a great gig in the sky as a kind of guardian of reality alongside other fellow heroes. If that's the case, the implications are massive. 

But that said, we just don't know at this point what the MCU is aiming to do with The Illuminati. They could be a murderer's row of cameos (possibly folks like Fantastic Four's Ioan Gruffudd as Reed Richards, perhaps?), or they could be a group of new characters who just so happen to have a really cool name. We'll find out for sure when Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness arrives May 6. 

If you're looking for more horror in the meantime, check out the extensive catalog of horror flicks on Peacock. Also be on the looking for Firestarter, which hits the service and theaters on May 13.